On December 18, 2018, the US Senate passed the First Step Act, a measure previously passed by the House of Representatives. Its passage was the culmination of five years of political arm wrestling that started with the Obama administration and was supported by the Trump administration. On December 21, 2018, Donald Trump signed the First Step Act into law.… Read the rest
Common prison reform necessarily highlights the federal government’s smothering of inmates’ constitutional rights. The age-old patterns of violations of incarcerated persons are examples of legislative bullying designed to protect the security of prison officers and staff at the expense of inmates’ basic rights. Because prison communication to the outside is designed to hide behind the security of guards and staff, the residual effect is but a hazy view into the lives of those held in the clutches of mass incarceration.… Read the rest
The fervent fight to eliminate California’s discriminatory cash bail system has resulted in qualified reform. Initial reporting on the subject is laced with hyperbole—for example, Thomas Fuller reported in an August 28, 2018, New York Times article, that “California . . . became the first state to fully abolish cash bail, a step that backers said would create a more equitable criminal justice system, one less dependent on a person’s wealth.”
Fuller quotes further puffing by Governor Jerry Brown: “Today [August 28, 2018], California reforms its bail system so that rich and poor alike are treated fairly.” The substance of the new law is based on an equitable and humanitarian formula regarding pretrial detention.… Read the rest
As I write this post, a seventeen-day prison strike is going on in this country. The coordinated actions started on August 21, 2018, and will end on September 9, 2018. The strike brings to the forefront prison reform issues that I, and countless other supporters of change, have been bringing to the attention of the general public and public servants about the pernicious grind of mass incarceration.… Read the rest
The subject matter for a prison reform blog can come from anywhere, even a piece junk mail. Usually, junk mail letters are instantly recognized as trash. However, some give enough compelling information on the outside to warrant being opened—so you can confirm its irrelevance.
I recently received a piece of enigmatic junk mail from an unknown sender: Department of Consumer Notices.… Read the rest
What do politicians and Jared Kushner have to do with federal prison reform? Prison reform is a large subject, and politicians will always politicalize aspects of any subject. Kushner could be the catalyst that results in reform. Why is that? He’s connected to the issues.
His father-in-law, according to Insider’s Maxwell Tani, has tasked Kushner with solving some of the world’s most complex and confounding political problems domestically and abroad, including the reformation of the criminal justice system.… Read the rest
Frederick Douglass wrote in his striking memoir, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave, that “The White children could tell their ages. I could not tell why I ought to be deprived of the same privilege.” Even asking your master about your birthday was, according to Douglass, “improper and impertinent,” and he added, “I do not remember to have ever met a slave who could tell of his birthday.”
Most reports have Douglass’s being born in February 1818 in Tuckahoe, Maryland.… Read the rest
Prison reform must address the needs of men and women who are reentering the work force after serving time in prison. Returning to your community can be as traumatic as going to prison when work opportunities are hampered because of a felony conviction. The idea that it’s a person’s conduct that’s bad, not the person, gets lost in the employment market.… Read the rest
Crusading for change includes knowing when real change happens. Some states are making more progress than others in their efforts for prison reform. According to the New Republic, “One could reasonably argue that Georgia is doing more to reform its criminal justice system than any other state in the country—from sentencing to felon employment after release to juvenile detention.” The thrust of Georgia’s reform movement begins before sentencing occurs and extends to when an inmate reenters society.… Read the rest
Real prison reform is a slow process. As with other social issues, it takes time for the public, judges, and legislators to make serious moves toward change. I’ve been asked why reforming prison living conditions takes so long. It’s because such reform germinates in the dark and easily goes unnoticed.
Prisons are the black holes of societies; they hold facts about aberrant morality that result in serious moral issues.… Read the rest